Traditional Chinese Oolong Tea

14 July 2021

Brewing traditional Chinese tea at home that combines the qualities of dark and green tea oolong tea presents a range of health benefits for your body.

Oolong TeaPhoto By Canva

Described as ‘Wulong’ or ‘Black Dragon’ due to the shaping of the tea leaves used when creating oolong tea, it is said that oolong tea was discovered by accident.

Generally, oolong tea is grown on mountainous rural ranges over rocky terrain in cool weather. It is this difficult environment that creates the rich flavors that oolong is known for.

While oolong is a traditional Chinese tea, many other countries are now creating their variation of oolong tea utilizing the same process with their local tea plants.

This creates unique flavor profiles specific to the region that the plant is grown within in a similar way that honey takes on the characteristics of the local plants to where the bees take nectar from. India, Japan, Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia are also actively developing their oolong teas.

What Is Oolong Tea?

Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese tea. Made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, which is the same plant as green tea and black tea, similarly to green and black tea, oolong tea is differentiated by its processing.

Oolong tea is darker than green tea as it is allowed to oxidize, which turns tea leaves darker. However, oolong tea does not oxidize as long as black tea, which places it in between green tea and black tea. And the reason is that it has an alternative taste and differing characteristics when compared to green or black tea.

What Is Special About Oolong Tea?

Oolong teas are traditionally twisted and curled into thin strands or tight balls using an artisanal shaping technique developed over hundreds and thousands of years of traditional tea makers within China.

Rolling is a fundamental element of creating oolong tea as it determines the oolong tea leaves’ appearance, shade, and aroma. All these elements contribute to the outcome of the tea flavor.

Why Is Oolong Tea Healthy?

There are many benefits to drinking oolong tea. Research has shown that oolong tea can boost metabolism and reduce stress levels, a great balancer throughout the day. The antioxidants within the tea are believed to activate enzymes that turn fat into energy, reducing the fat absorbed into your body.

It’s not just the body that benefits from oolong tea; the amino acids within oolong tea are believed to boost attention and relieve anxiety confirming the Adage of taking a tea break or calming down over a cup of tea.

Some fascinating research is currently being conducted on the relation of tea such as oolong, green and black and their potential to reduce and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Like its sister teas, black and green, oolong tea has multiple vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals beneficial to your brain and your body. Containing caffeine, niacin magnesium, sodium, potassium, manganese, and fluoride, oolong tea also contains amino acids responsible for the tea’s relaxing properties.

Going hand-in-hand with relaxation properties, oolong tea may also improve your heart health. Reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels will reduce the risk of heart disease, which is widely reported for regular tea drinkers.

A Japanese study has been conducted surrounding the effects of oolong tea. The results concluded that 61% of trial participants had a lower risk of heart disease. Similar studies are currently underway on oolong tea’s effects on/likeability.

Diabetes research has shown that drinking oolong tea can potentially reduce insulin levels and blood sugar. Reports suggest that the long-term incorporation of oolong tea into your daily diet can lower your risk of developing type II diabetes.

If this is an area of concern for you, or you’d like to learn more about the benefits of oolong tea and its relation to diabetes, seek further professional guidance from a nutritionist and your doctor. As ever, please inform your doctor or health care professional of your intention to make any additions or substitutes to your daily diet.

Does Oolong Tea Have Caffeine?

Oolong tea, like black and green tea, contains caffeine. You may find that oolong tea spikes your blood pressure; this is likely if you have caffeine sensitivity or have previously been affected by large amounts of caffeine within your diet. The caffeine content of oolong tea is only one-quarter when compared with coffee.

How To Make Oolong Tea?

Oolong tea is made through a process of weathering, cooling, light rolling, oxidizing, then roasting before a final rolling and drying process that results in hand sorting and packing before arriving in your cup ready to drink.

1. Withering

Tea leaves are shaken and intentionally bruised to encourage the oxygenation process. The leaves are then laid out in the sun for several hours to dry to create a withering effect and to assist in the tea leaves losing their moisture content. The now softened tea leaves make them flexible for the rolling and shaping process that is unique to oolong tea.

2. Cooling

The tea leaves are then rested to allow them to cool down after being sat in the sun. The tea leaves are allowed to flatten and wilt, and they begin to change their natural shaping due to the chemical reactions within the leaves from the heat and the subsequent cooling process. After this they are ready to be rolled into shape.

3. Light Rolling

This process helps the tea leaves develop their unique oolong parents as well as their flavor profile. The wilted leaves are rolled very lightly and further bruised to activate the breakdown of cell walls within the leaves, which releases enzymes and all the essential oils that will further flavor the tea. This light rolling process encourages oxidization.

4. Oxidising

how long the tea leaves are allowed to oxidize will result in a lighter or darker flavor profile. The levels of oxidation during the oolong tea-making process can range from a mere 10% right up to 80%, which creates a variety of colors and flavors which are unique and independent of that of the tea producer.

5. Final Rolling

The cult-like rolling of the tea leaves defined its final shape. This defines the final look and feel of the tea.

6. Drying

The shaped tea leaves are then left out to dry. This process is to remove all the moisture content within the tea leaves to allow them to be stored completely free of moisture and extend the lifespan before spoiling.

7. Hand Sorting and Sharing

When oolong tea is free of moisture, they are visually sorted into similar aesthetics and colors to create different types of tea. They are then graded as is traditional within Asia, which rates the tea visibility and taste profile determined by how the leaf is presented, whether it’s a whole leaf, broken leaf, or contains unopened tea buds.

Next time you purchase your oolong tea, be sure to pay attention to the aesthetics and aroma from your packets and take a moment to learn more about the process your tea has gone through to arrive in the cup between your hands.

How To Brew Oolong Tea?

Due to the wide variety of processes involved with preparing oolong tea, check the tea brewing guidance for varying brewing temperatures and steeping times. Typically it is best to use fresh and filtered water for your oolong tea brewing.

Typically oolong’s are steeped between 180 °C and 200 °C for 60 seconds up to 3 minutes stop with many oolong teas designed to steep multiple times each steeping unfurls the rolled leaves creating even more layers of the oolong flavor profile.

This is a very intentional part of oolong tea brewing. The tea producer or farmer continues to reveal the different layers that oolong tea provides both from a tasting perspective and an aroma perspective.

Be sure not to over steep your oolong tea as multiple short infusions create better taste than fewer longer steeps. Using 2 g of loose leaf tea per 8 ounces is a rough guideline and always cover your tea as it steeps to contain heat and flavor.

Oolong is designed to be drunk without milk or sugar; however, you can tailor your oolong tea to fit your taste preferences.

What Are The Side Effects Of Oolong Tea?

Oolong tea is a very well-established traditional Chinese tea. Like any food or drink, oolong tea also has health warnings as it contains caffeine. When consumed in excess, caffeine can result in headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, and anxiety issues.

In addition to this, too many antioxidants can have a native effect on your body and your brain. Therefore, enjoy oolong tea in a mindful, moderate way and be aware that other caffeine products will also affect your diet and lifestyle.

Oolong tea is a great way to incorporate some brilliant health benefits into your daily lifestyle. A tasty tea that is easy to add to your lifestyle and the practice that has been prominent in China for thousands of years.

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